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EPA Suddenly Drops Wyoming Fracking Pollution Study

EPA Suddenly Drops Wyoming Fracking Pollution Study

In 2011, Care2 reported on what at the time seemed like a turning point in the fight against hydraulic fracturing. In a report released on December 8, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time officially concluded that contaminants found in drinking water wells around Pavillion, Wyo., were the result of nearby fracking operations conducted by drilling company EnCana.

Of course, the fossil fuel industry didn’t like that assessment, and so the EPA announced that it would submit its theory for analysis by independent experts, a process known in the scientific community as “peer review.” If the experts confirmed the validity of the findings, it would have been a huge blow to the natural gas industry, which in the past few years has bombarded nearly every region of the United States with fracking operations.

With so much potential profit at stake for the industry, the EPA’s sudden decision to abandon the peer review process and turn the investigation over to industry-backed state authorities looks like anything but coincidence.

From the official EPA press release:

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) and the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (WOGCC) will lead the scientific investigation and will seek to address water quality concerns by evaluating the water quality of certain domestic water wells, the integrity of certain oil and gas wells, and historic pits in the Pavillion area…Wyoming will continue its work to assure residents have a clean source of drinking water available.

“It is in everyone’s best interest – particularly the citizens who live outside of Pavillion – that Wyoming and the EPA reach an unbiased, scientifically supportable conclusion,” Governor Matt Mead said in the same release. “I commend the EPA and Encana for working with me to chart a positive course for this investigation. I commit that Wyoming will work in a thoughtful and productive manner as further investigation is initiated.”

An “unbiased, scientifically-supportable conclusion”? Would the best way to achieve that conclusion be through the time-honored peer review process and not by turning the investigation over to the very same company accused of poisoning the water supply?

That’s right, “the new research led by Wyoming officials would be funded at least in part by a $1.5 million grant from Encana Corp.’s U.S. oil and gas subsidiary, which owns the Pavillion gas field,” reports Boston.com.

I lived in Wyoming for a year. I talked to dozens of long-time citizens who were horrified to learn how their state’s thirst for profit was contaminating the air, water and soil. I smelled (and got severe headaches from) the stench of a local oil refinery releasing flares into the late afternoon sky.

The truth is, oil and gas money runs the state. The legislature, which should be looking out of the best interests of the people, is virtually a one-party system. Entrenched politicians who use the same old “jobs” and “cheap energy” argument to quickly crush any grassroots opposition. And now, they’re managed to bully the EPA into swapping self-regulation for independent investigation.

Not surprisingly, the local fracking fanboys are thrilled.

“Wyoming and Encana understand the importance of water in this state and I am pleased to see their continued commitment to the scientific investigation and to provide interim funding for water to the residents while that investigation progresses,” Governor Mead said.

What do you want to bet that when their investigation concludes late next year, Wyoming will find that Encana had nothing to do with the groundwater contamination? You heard it here first.

 

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Image via sweetone/Flickr

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97 comments

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12:53PM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

thanks for sharing

8:12AM PDT on Jul 3, 2013

thank you

9:23AM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

I agree with Bill

7:36PM PDT on Jul 1, 2013

so scary I am writing a novel "thirst" about the coming lack of potable water in the world and the US

12:35PM PDT on Jul 1, 2013

EPA is headed by a political appointee, not a career civil servant. Money talks and big money takes even louder.

12:31PM PDT on Jul 1, 2013

"Wyoming will continue it's work to assure residents have a clean source of drinking water available." I'm assuming that this means trucked in water, as we've seen throughout fracked communities all over the country. Now that these peoples homes and ranches have been rendered valueless (because NOBODY will buy a piece of property without potable water), does the county accurately asses the worth of their property and stop charging them real estate taxes? I'll bet not. Will the companies be made to compensate them for the fair market value of their property prior to the destruction of their water? Again, I'll bet not. Will these ruined Wyomans continue to vote for the frackers friends, the GOP? Sadly, I'll bet they will.

8:37AM PDT on Jul 1, 2013

Of course it's not a "coincidence". Do you really think we can depend upon the EPA?

7:20AM PDT on Jul 1, 2013

That's insane!!

7:10AM PDT on Jul 1, 2013

Down with all Fracking!!!!!!!!

7:00AM PDT on Jul 1, 2013

This decision does not surprise me at all. Once again every agency is just dragging their feet.

The EPA is just another corrupt branch of the government who is holding out to the highest bidder.

The EPA will not bite the hand that feeds them namely Big Oil.

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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